In 1956, George Beattie painted eight murals for the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Four of those murals addressed the history of agriculture in the state. In recent years, their content (which addresses slavery and the history of American Indians in Georgia) became recognized as offensive to many visitors to the building, and in 2011, Gary Black, the commissioner of agriculture, requested their removal. The Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA), which is the official state museum of art, agreed to take all eight murals to preserve them as an important part of the state's art history.
The museum also created four videos to educate the public, provide context for the images and discuss exactly why they are problematic. This one features Valerie Babb, a professor of English and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia (UGA). Babb talks about the images of women and slaves, the way these four murals and the other four (which focus on then-contemporary agriculture) fit together, some of the problems in Beattie's representations and the importance of keeping even controversial art visible.
NOTE: The four history murals are on display at GMOA Aug. 1, 2012, to Jan. 7, 2013.
More viewpoints on YouTube:
James C. Cobb, Spalding Distinguished Research Professor in UGA's history department and the leading scholar on Georgia history, discusses the context (including agricultural history) in which the murals were created and the influences that have shaped Georgia's identity over the years. View video.
Paul Manoguerra, chief curator and curator of American art at the Georgia Museum of Art, who directed the installation of the murals at GMOA, talks about the murals' place in the art history of the state, Beattie's influences as an artist and some of the symbolism present in the images. View video
Laura Weaver of UGA's Institute of Native American Studies. Weaver discusses Beattie's many inaccuracies in his portrayal of native people and the myth of the "noble savage." View video